Essay topics: Private collectors have been selling and buying fossils, the petrified remains of ancient organisms, ever since the eighteenth century. In recent years, however, the sale of fossils, particularly of dinosaurs and other large vertebrates, has grown into a big business. Rare and important fossils are now being sold to private ownership for millions of dollars. This is an unfortunate development for both scientists and the general public.
The public suffers because fossils that would otherwise be donated to museums where everyone can see them are sold to private collectors who do not allow the public to view their collections. Making it harder for the public to see fossils can lead to a decline in public interest in fossils, which would be a pity.
More importantly, scientists are likely to lose access to some of the most important fossils and thereby miss out on potentially crucial discoveries about extinct life forms. Wealthy fossil buyers with a desire to own the rarest and most important fossils can spend virtually limitless amounts of money to acquire them. Scientists and the museums and universities they work for often cannot compete successfully for fossils against millionaire fossil buyers.
Moreover, commercial fossil collectors often destroy valuable scientific evidence associated with the fossils they unearth. Most commercial fossil collectors are untrained or uninterestedin carrying out the careful field work and documentation that reveal the most about animal life in the past. For example, scientists have learned about the biology of nest-building dinosaurs called oviraptors by carefully observing the exact position of oviraptor fossils in the ground and the presence of other fossils in the immediate surroundings. Commercial fossil collectors typically pay no attention to how fossils lie in the ground or to the smaller fossils that may surround bigger ones.
The reading passage and the lecture both discuss the idea of allowing private collectors to buy and sell valuable fossils. On one hand, the author of the article believes that commercialization of fossil business will have negative consequences for both scientific research and the public. On the other hand, the lecturer indicates that the disadvantages for fossil commercialization is greatly exaggerated in the article. She later argues that it would actually be beneficial for individuals and also for the scientific community.
First of all, the reading claims that private collectors would limit public access to valuable fossils, which would have been donated to museums otherwise. However, the lecturer explains that commercial fossil hunting would increase the number of fossils available for purchase and it would also make them at affordable prices for small public institutions such as libraries and schools to buy them and display them to the public.
More importantly, the article postulates that scientists would not be able to study the newly discovered fossils as universities would have no chance to successfully compete with millionaires to buy those fossils. Nevertheless, the professor in the lecture refutes this argument. She holds that in order for unearthed fossils to be valued, they have to go through scientists and experts' hands who would, therefore, perform detailed examinations and tests to identify these fossils.
Lastly, the author implies that private collectors are not trained enough to effectively collect all the scientific data from the fossils themselves and from the locations where the fossils were found. In addition, private collectors may damage fossils during excavation. In contrast, the lecturer posits that the number of fossil collecting operations by public institutions are limited and the effort of private collectors is badly needed to bring more fossils to light. As a result, it's safe to say that it's better to sacrifice a small amount of scientific data about fossils discovered by private collectors than for fossils to go simply undiscovered.
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